If you’re always grateful for the little things, it’s hard to avoid happiness. It’s a lack of gratitude that often keeps us feeling down.

How often do you let go of what you think your life is supposed to look like, and sincerely appreciate it for everything it is?

If you’re anything like the rest of us, it’s probably not often enough.

Because finding sincere gratitude is much easier said than done in the hustle of life, especially when hard times hit. The truth is, most of the time we create tragedy in our lives out of fairly minor incidents. Something doesn’t go exactly as planned, but rather than learn from the experience, we freak out about it and let stress become us. Or we resist the small bits of progress we’ve made because we can’t achieve exactly what we want all at once.

Here’s an excerpt from 1,000 Little Things with some proven ways to find sincere gratitude when everything seems to be going wrong. Of course, we’re not suggesting we should rejoice at living through disappointing or painful life experiences. But there are ways we can find gratitude as we grow through them, nonetheless.

1. Be grateful around difficult people.

We expect people to treat us kindly, fairly, and respectfully. But the reality is some people won’t. They will lose their tempers or act foolishly, regardless of how we treat them. This must be accepted. Don’t lower your standards, but do remind yourself that removing your expectations of others, especially those who are being difficult is the best way to avoid being disappointed by them.

When you’re forced to deal with a difficult person, you can be grateful for having other people in your life who are far less difficult. You can be grateful for having a way to practice being better at patience, communication, and tempering your expectations. You can think of this person as a teacher who is inadvertently helping you to grow stronger as a person. And, at the very least, you can be grateful for them because they serve as a great reminder of how not to be.

2. Be grateful when you catch yourself starting to complain.

Many of us have developed a subtle habit of complaining when things don’t go quite our way. Gratitude is the antidote. Each time you notice yourself feeling bitter, or complaining, notice the story in your mind about “how life should be.” Instead of letting this story dominate you, find a small way to be grateful instead. What could you feel grateful for right now? What could you appreciate about this moment? Remember, there’s always something to be negative about—and something to be grateful for. The choice is ours.

3. Be grateful when you begin to feel overwhelmed.

Have you ever noticed how the more familiar you become with an amazing situation or relationship in your life, the more you seem to take it for granted and even feel annoyed or overwhelmed in busy and stressful times? Challenge yourself to flip your perspective in these moments, using a simple reframing tool we call and I love it.

Add this phrase to any overwhelming thought:

  • I need to go grocery shopping, and pay the bills, and pick the kids up from school in an hour and I love it!
  • My inbox is filled with two dozen client e?mails that need a response today and I love it!

Let this little reframing tool give you the perspective you need. Because, again, the everyday things that overwhelm us are often blessings in disguise. OK, now for some harder stuff.

4. Find gratitude after job loss.

No one wins at chess by only moving forward; sometimes you have to move backward to put yourself in a position to win. And that’s a good metaphor for your life’s work too. As painful as losing your job is, it’s an ending that leads to the beginning of everything that comes next. Let the heaviness of being successful be replaced by the lightness of starting over. This new beginning is the start of a different story, the opportunity to refresh your life, to
reinvent who you are.

Remind yourself, as often as necessary, that you can find gratitude for where you are. You can find gratitude for these moments of reinvention for pushing into the discomfort of getting good at interviewing, learning new skills, and leveling up. You can find gratitude for the opportunity to grow stronger, even in the midst of the growing pains that ultimately get you there.

5. Find gratitude amid health problems.

A couple of years ago, on the second-to-last day of her life, a close friend of ours shared that her only regret was that she didn’t appreciate every year with the same passion and purpose that she had in the last two years of her life, after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. “I’ve accomplished so much recently, and truly appreciated every step,” she said. “If I had only known, I would have started sooner.”

Her words made us cry and smile at the same time. What was truly miraculous was seeing the genuine gratitude in her eyes at that moment. And her sentiment has always remained with us. So, while health problems are never fun, the pain can be mediated by a sense of gratitude for having a chance to move forward on our own terms. Of having a life worth living, from moment to precious moment.

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